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023 - How to get motivated

You can’t just sit there waiting for motivation to happen. Because it just doesn’t, that’s not how it works. If you wait to do something until the motivation to do it manifests itself, then you’re still going to be sat there waiting this time next year.

To understand how motivation works, you first need to understand how the human brain works. There is no such thing as a naturally motivated person, those with motivation have a strategy in place to first get motivated and then stay that way. In this episode, David looks at how you can trick your brain to motivate itself and then use techniques such as accountability groups to keep you going. And if your business is firmly rooted in the vegan cause, then you also have a whole extra toolbox to keep you motivated.

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Full episode transcript

Hello and welcome to episode twenty-three of The Vegan Business Tribe Podcast with myself David Pannell, co-founder of Vegan Business Tribe.  If you have a vegan business, or are thinking of starting one, then Vegan Business Tribe is here to support and inspire you not just to build a vegan business, but to build a SUCCESSFUL vegan business.
 
And if you want to go beyond the podcast and connect with our community of like-minded vegan entrepreneurs then head over to Vegan Business Tribe .com where you can attend our online networking events, get support, study our vegan marketing course and just be part of a wonderful community of vegan business people.  And trust me, no matter what stage your vegan business is at – you’re going to get more successful, and grow quicker if you’ve got other people around you who understand why you are doing what you’re doing and are on the same mission that you are.
 
I’m recording this episode on the back of Lisa’s last Make It Happen workshop.  These workshops are our accountability sessions, where we meet with members each month to help them set goals and get updates on the goals they set last month.  And as part of the session, we ask people to identify their biggest barrier to hitting their goals, and the number one reason this week was ‘lack of motivation’. 
 
Now I like to think that we give a lot of good, hands-on practical advice in these podcasts.  I like to share with you how to actually do SOMETHING.  At the end of each episode, I want you to come away with some knowledge that you didn’t have before, knowing that if you go put into practice what we’ve just spent 30 minutes talking about that it’s going to have a positive impact on your business.
 
But, it’s that bit about actually going and putting something into action where, I know, a lot of us fall down.  But you can’t just sit there waiting for motivation to happen to you. Because it just doesn’t, that’s not how it works. If you wait to do something until the motivation to do it manifests itself, then you’re still going to be sat there waiting this time next year.
 
It’s great to listen to this podcast and get fired up while we’re talking, but then what do you actually do afterwards?  How long will that warm glow of motivation last after you finish listening?  Do you run off and do the things that you now know you need to do, or does life get in the way and you have to wait until the next time we talk for that motivation to come back?
 
And this is, generally, how motivation works for most people.  It’s like a firework that goes off with a big bang then just twinkles away.  That’s why if you go to the gym in the first couple of weeks of January you can’t get through the door.  All the people with New Year motivation are clogging up the treadmills.  But wait a month and it’s back to normal.  That New Year motivation has twinkled away and you’re back in front of Netflix and eating Oreos for breakfast.
 
And this is what people tell me, they get all motivated to do something but that motivation doesn’t last.  Well, neither does taking a shower, which is why it’s recommended that you do it every day.
 
To understand how motivation works, you need to first understand how the human brain works. The human brain is amazing.  It has evolved to be the most incredible lazy lump of soft tissue anywhere in the known universe. I mean, it doesn’t DO anything.  It’s evolved to be carried around, it doesn’t have to feed itself, and it is constantly looking for shortcuts. If your brain can find a way to avoid using energy, it will find it.  Your brain is wired to be lazy, being lazy has HUGE survival benefits in the here and now.  Think back to the time when our brains evolved, to our ancestors. Food might have been scarce, and you never know when you might have needed a burst of energy to outrun a predator or to survive a drought or a migration.  Moving around unnecessarily used energy and your survival, and the survival of those in your group, might have relied on how much energy you were able to store up for future use.   If you’re out gathering food, then you will survive longer if you can gather it in a way that depletes the least energy possible when doing it. You can get someone to bring it to you instead – perfect! You want the food you collect to give you more energy than the process it took you to collect it. 
 
And this pre-historic wiring is something that we now have to fight against. Your brain is making a constant evaluation of your situation and will ask “is there something easier I could be doing right now? Is there some way to get to the end of the day by expending less energy – mentally and physically?”  That’s why the average person spends 3 hours a day watching television. That’s 21 hours a week where your brain has you in power-saving mode but is still conscious and entertained. Now, I’m not trying to give you a natural history lesson here, instead I’m helping you understand WHY it’s so hard to keep motivated. If you are one of those people who say ‘well, my motivation never lasts’ – it’s not supposed to.  That’s not how the brain is wired. You’re exactly the same as everyone else.  Motivation isn’t a natural state of mind, it’s something that you need to make a conscious effort to maintain, often against our nature.  And when you come to peace with that, when you know that your brain is going to be working against you, you can be ready for it. And that’s all that really motivated people do.  They have learned that they need strategies to keep themselves motivated, they know it doesn’t just happen naturally.
 
If you drive a car, then when do you choose to charge your car up or fill it with petrol? Do you wait until the car completely grinds to a halt and then say “oh well, I guess I’ll just stop here then”?  Or do you make sure you have enough fuel or energy in your car to get you to where you’re planning to go?  And if it’s a long trip, you know that the fuel or charge you have won’t get you there, so you plan where you’re going to refill.  And motivation is just the same.  You need to accept that it doesn’t just appear, it doesn’t last, and you need to take responsibility for making sure that you keep filling up so you have enough to get you to where you are heading.
 
And you will be surprised how much easier this is than you might think.  We’ve already identified that your brain is chronically lazy. It’s looking for shortcuts, ways to stop you from expending physical and mental energy.  But that same brain will also make sure you beat your 100 meter run personal best time if a bear was chasing you. If your brain can see a real tangible benefit to doing something, such as not getting eaten by a bear, then it will give you all the motivation you need. It will even plug in some helpful adrenalin to make sure you achieve that goal of not getting eaten by the bear.  And that’s why sometimes you need that modern equivalent of a bear chasing you to get things done.  A deadline, or a hard cut-off point.  In our goal-setting workshops, one of the tips Lisa gives is to tie a task to a live event.  What do I mean by that?  Well, if you need to get your new product launched?  Book a stall at an event where you are going to launch it or invite all your customers to a launch event one month from now.  You need to get your website finished?  Pay for an advert in a magazine or in an email newsletter that goes out to twenty thousand vegans which has a link to your new website.  And believe me, even if you need to work through the night to get your website finished, you will have it live and online by the time that advert goes out.  That’s the modern equivalent of having a bear chasing you – and you can use that virtual bear to motivate you to get all sorts of major tasks wrapped up and complete on time.
 
But this kind of motivation is reactionary.  It’s a really handy tool, but you can’t live your life having to be chased by bears to get things done.  What I really want to talk about in this session is the kind of motivation that doesn’t need something chasing you to get you moving.  The self-starting motivation that happens because you have shown your lazy brain that there is a huge benefit to you doing something.  A lot of people, when they talk about myself and Liza, they often mention our positivity and our motivation.  When we get feedback from our Vegan Business Tribe members they are the two words that come up the most often. And to me, that’s no surprise because motivation comes from positivity.  Positivity comes from having hope.  Hope comes from knowing that change can happen.
 
And as a vegan, ‘hope’ is something we’re all really familiar with. We want a fairer, cruelty-free future where animals are not killed or used as commodities.  If you are vegan, you are in a HUGE minority.  Going vegan might put you in conflict with your friends, your closest family, but you were motivated to do it to help bring about a change.  Every animal-based product you replace on a shelf is proving that we can still have everything we want in the world without having to involve an animal in its production.  At some point to become vegan you had to make that connection with what you are eating, drinking or wearing and the animal that it came from. And in the same way, you need to make your connection with the REASON you started a vegan business in the first place to give you the motivation to make it a success.  Seeing ‘hope’ in the future is an amazing motivator.  And if you KNOW that your business is going to make a difference, then that fuels you to keep getting better at doing it. This is why we always say you need to connect your company with the vegan cause in some way.  Maybe you ARE directly replacing an animal product, or maybe your company is ‘vegan by stealth’ because you know you will connect with a wider market and start more people on their plant-based journey that way.  But keep a log, keep an estimate of how many people you think you’ve started on their journey or actively converted to be vegan.  Keep a log of how many animals’ lives you think your business has actively saved.  And if you made your business even more successful, how many more would you save?  Having a mission is a great motivator.
 
Some vegan companies also have a vegan side-gig to keep them connected to the cause.  They might donate their team’s time to help out at their local animal sanctuary or they might even organise events and go out doing educational activism with time and resources paid for by their main businesses activities.  I even know companies who have been set up with the goal of 100% of their proceeds going to fund a rescue centre.  When you are THAT mission-driven, the motivation is baked into your business.  So maybe if you DO have a vegan business, and you’re struggling with motivation, ask yourself if you’ve set out to make a big enough impact in the world?  How much is your business actually moving the vegan course forwards?  Perhaps instead of planting trees for every order, put 10% of every sale or invoice into a ‘community fund’.  If you’re a vegan web designer, you might use that ‘community fund’ to give a worthy vegan cause a new website twice a year.  The more successful your company is, the more it can give back this way and that can be a huge motivator to really make your business successful.
 
At Vegan Business Tribe, we know that the advice and support we’ve given has changed people’s lives. We know the Tribe has really helped people who were at the point of giving up on some amazing vegan ventures re-ignite their passion for what they were doing. THAT’s where our motivation comes from – we see the difference we’re making which spurs us on to make more.  We have a mission – because I know that the more successful vegan businesses we have, the quicker the vegan businesses scene grows and the quicker we move towards that vegan world.
 
OK, so that’s all really good stuff.  And I’m expecting that you’re already more fired up by now than when we first started this chat, but as I said earlier: you need to take responsibility for your motivation.  You can’t expect your partner or your friends to keep it going.  You can’t rely on me to keep pepping you up.  It’s down to you.
 
And that is exactly what every really motivated person I know does.  They are not just a ‘naturally motivated’ person, I don’t think there’s actually such a thing.  They have taken RESPONSIBILITY for that motivation.  And if you are sat there now thinking ‘but I just don’t have any motivation’ then it is down to you to go out there and create it.  You need to nurture it, not just as a one-off firework, but as a constant force in your life. And this isn’t something that happens straight away.  You need to lay siege to your lazy brain, you need to coax it, you need to develop a strategy to teach your brain what motivation can achieve, and the best way to start is to show it.
 
Classic motivational speaker Jim Rohn said that ‘you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with’, and I think there’s some truth in that.  If your brain sees all the people around you also watching 21 hours of Netflix a week then it knows that’s perfectly acceptable.  Everyone is laying around here unconcerned, so life must be easy.  But when you start spending time in the company of people who are doing MORE, you start to want to do more too. If your goal is to grow your business, then surround yourself with other people who have done it or are currently doing it. That’s why I always invite new people we meet to our Vegan Business Tribe networking sessions to surround yourself with other motivated people who are making things happen.  It’s why I suggest you watch the interviews we record with vegan business owners on the website to make your brain think it’s surrounded by people who are doing successful things. Take that couple of hours you WERE going to spend binging Netflix and instead watch my interview with Kevin Newell about how he grew Humain Wildlife Solutions, a vegan ‘pest control’ company that was recently voted Scotland’s Best Pest Control Service.  Go watch Lisa’s interview with Mike Hill from One Planet Pizza about how they first raised money through crowdfunding for a vegan frozen pizza company and then found a vegan investor to take him to the next level.
 
And here’s the sneaky bit – your brain can’t tell the difference.  It doesn’t realise that you don’t actually know these people, that you’re just watching a recording, it just starts to raise the bar for what it considers to be normal activity.  All of a sudden, it starts to think everyone is building a successful vegan business. And when your brain sees that everyone else around you is doing something, it starts to think that maybe you should be doing it too.  If everyone else is building boats around you, your brain doesn’t want you to be the one getting swept away in the flood!
 
You can keep feeding your brain with these kinds of things.  You can keep fooling it to start working towards all the things you want to achieve by exposing it to people who are actively achieving them.  You will have heard the phrase “if you put rubbish in, you get rubbish out”.  Well, that’s exactly how you build your motivation. Motivation isn’t something that hits you like a bolt of lightning, it’s something that you have to build. Make time and give yourself permission to do this. Book a morning out, yes actually in work time, to go and watch those interviews or go and listen to someone’s story who has done what you want to do.  Go spend time at conferences: spend time at digital marketing expos, ‘Growth Hacking’ Conferences, Future Trends events – all to surround yourself with people who find the idea of growing a business as normal as eating breakfast each morning.
 
Let me tell you a quick story about my best friend from school.  We both grew up in the same town, but when we finished University I stayed in the UK but he headed off to the States.  I spoke to him twelve months later and I couldn’t believe how much his accent had changed – he spoke with a heavy American twang to his English accent.  It wasn’t something he’d consciously done, but because what he’d surrounded himself with had changed, his brain had reacted and changed HIM to match.  I saw a recording of him last year in a TV interview and there was no trace of his Yorkshire accent left, you would think he was born and raised in New York. Maybe you’ve noticed this happen yourself, someone moves to a new country or a new city, they are surrounded by different people and their accent and their behaviours change to match. It’s not a conscious decision, it’s just, again, how our brain works. The same happens when you surround yourself with successful people.  Now, I’m very careful not to define too much what the word ‘successful’ means here because it’s different to us all. For you, successful might mean people who are making money.  Or it might be people who have built a business that has made a huge difference in the world.  Or success to you might be moral success, someone who helps other people and sets a good example. To me, success means all those things and you can’t have one without the others.  And just like picking up a different accent, surrounding yourself with succesful people, either virtually or in the real world, means your brain changes its output – not consciously – your brain just changes its baseline of what is normal to what it sees around it.
 
And once you KNOW this, once you know how your brain works, you can do everything you can to trick it into getting motivated.  If you want to build a business, go spend time with people who are either doing it or who have already done it. Go find people who have set up a successful business and listen to interviews with them.  NPR – National Public Radio – have a brilliant series of podcasts called ‘How I Built This’ with Guy Raz.  Over the years he’s interviewed everyone from the founder of Air B&B to Richard Branson to find out how they created their businesses, usually from nothing. Go read Seth Tibbott’s book about how he built vegan mega food brand Tofurkey whilst living in a treehouse to save money, or go listen to an interview with Ethan Brown from Beyond Meat.  How many similarities will you spot in all these people’s stories to where you are RIGHT NOW?  Make the idea of growing your business seem normal, like it’s what everyone around you is doing, and your brain will start nudging you towards doing it yourself.
 
You can also start showing your brain what life COULD be like if you start taking action.  For example, maybe one of your big dreams is to take to the road and live and work from a campervan – have a different view out of your window every day, I know people who have done it.  If that’s the case, then go start looking at camper vans NOW.  It doesn’t matter if you think you’re ten years away from that, or if you have absolutely NO money in the bank at the moment, it doesn’t matter, go find your local campervan dealer and start sitting in some camper vans.  Start to make the vision real. Start to get an idea of what it could be like. Or if your dream is to live in a certain kind of house, or in a certain area, then go find that house on Air B&B and experience it for a long weekend.  I assure you, once you get a taste of what achieving your goals will bring you then you won’t want to hand those keys back! You will go home full of motivation to find ways to make it permanent. 
 
As you start making these changes in your life, both mental in terms of what you’re learning, and physical in terms of what you are experiencing, your brain will stop working against you expending energy – or at least stop putting up so much of a struggle.  Self-growth is one of the biggest motivators you will ever find because everything changes when YOU change.  And it IS down to you to change.  You can’t sit there waiting for someone to come along and change it for you.  We are not pot plants, if we don’t like the situation we’re in then it’s down to us to find a way to do something about it.
 
Saying that though, reaching out for the help of others to kindle that spark of motivation is a very good way of keeping it going.  But you need to do it from a place of motivation first, if you reach out to others expecting them to be responsible for your motivation then you’re only ever going to be disappointed.  Having people to keep you accountable, however, is a very powerful thing.  In my last business, we had a weekly team round-up and report back every Monday afternoon.  I scheduled it for Monday afternoon on purpose knowing that Monday morning became the most productive few hours of the week as everyone scrambled to get their tasks done in time for the meeting.  We could have had it once a month, but I know that all the activity would have still happened the day before the meeting.  Do the same.   Find someone who has a lot of business experience, or someone who has already built the same kind of business that you want to build, and ask them to keep you accountable.  Have a 30 minute Zoom meeting scheduled once a month, use it to set goals and deadlines of tasks that you need to have completed for the next session. Or find an accountability buddy – this might be someone else who is running a business at the moment and wants someone to buddy up with once a week or a fortnight to keep you under pressure.  When you are doing a task for yourself, it’s easy to let it slip.  Remember, your brain will come up with all the excuses in the world.  When you are doing a task where someone else is expecting you to deliver though, then it’s a lot harder to squirm out of doing it.  This is what we do with Lisa’s Make It Happen sessions once a month with our members, each month we have an open session where we all set our business and personal goals together and then report back the next month with how we all did – it’s fun as well as productive.
 
When you feel that motivation, when you look back each month and see what you’ve achieved, pay attention to it.  Celebrate it.  Lisa and I have bought so many vegan cakes in the past to celebrate when we’ve reached a certain number of members, or to acknowledge completing a big task that we’ve been putting off.  Remember to look back now and again to see how far you’ve climbed, don’t overlook what you are achieving every day.  Extrapolate – say: “Well, if I’ve achieved this in one month, what will I achieve in the next three months if I keep working with this kind of motivation?”
 
And finally, don’t be afraid to hit reset now and again.  We all have to do it.  And this might sound familiar: you get all motivated, you have some wins, then you fall back into bad habits.  You stop feeding your brain with the good stuff, maybe because something else happened in your life that you needed to give attention to, maybe you were poor at time planning and stopped taking time out to work on your motivation.  Or maybe you just ran out of steam.  That’s fine.  Just hit the reboot button and start again.  If you’d not had time to shower this morning would you just stop showering for the rest of your life?  If you forgot to brush your teeth would that be it?  You tried, you failed so now it’s a life of halitosis and expensive dental work for you. No, you’d get back to it at the earliest opportunity. And that’s the same with motivation, it doesn’t matter that you WERE motivated and now you’re not – that wasn’t a failure, that isn’t proof that you don’t have motivation. You just let your tank run dry and stopped where you got to.  So fill it up again.  But this time you know the shortcuts, and you will find you get more motivated even quicker. And you will likely have to do this time and time again, just like driving a car, KNOW that you will have to recharge and refill and build that into your plan.  Book yourself onto an event now that is several months away.  Commit to things in the future now, when you are at your most motivated, because you know you might not be as motivated later. Join an accountability group because you know it will help you in the future when your motivation is dipping.  PLAN to keep that motivation going.
 
Now, I really hope what we’ve talked about in this session hits home.  I’ve slipped in phrases that I live my life by, and you can feel free to steal them:  ‘You are not a pot plant’, ‘Everything changes when you change’, ‘you say motivation doesn’t last, neither does showering which is why it’s recommended daily’.  I want to hear you start using these phrases yourself and I want to hear you saying them to other people so that they become your own. OK, let’s round up what we’ve gone through today as a reminder:
 
  1. The human brain evolved to stop you from expending energy unnecessarily.  Motivation doesn’t last, it isn’t a natural state of mind, it’s something that you need to make a conscious effort to maintain.
  2. If your brain can see a real tangible benefit to doing something, such as not getting eaten by a bear, then it will give you all the motivation you need.  So sometimes introducing your own bear, such as having a deadline tied to a live event, can be really helpful in getting things done.
  3. Tying your business to the vegan cause is also a great way to give you motivation.  How many people you think you’ve started on their vegan journey or how many animals’ lives you think your business has saved?  Being on a mission is a great motivator.
  4. Jim Rohn said that ‘you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with’ – so how can you fool your brain into thinking you are surrounded by people who have already achieved what you are wanting to achieve? Keep feeding your brain, watch the interviews, read the books, go to the seminars.
  5. Make it real. Go for viewings of your dream house even if you think you’re ten years away from buying it.  Go book the campervan you want to buy for a week’s holiday – you won’t want to give the keys back at the end and your brain will start working on ways to make it permanent.
  6. Make yourself accountable. Join an accountability group or find an accountability buddy.
 
So, what are you going to do now?  Are we going to just wrap this up and you go back to what you were doing – or are you going to use this motivation to actually take a step.  Are you now going to spend twenty minutes with your notebook to plan out your motivation? Because, you can’t just sit there waiting for motivation to happen.  Nothing is going to change until you take action. Until you trick that same lazy brain that we were all born with that it’s worth you expending energy on making your business, and yourself, a success.  And RIGHT NOW seems like quite a good place to start to me.
 
OK, so that’s it.  Thank you so much for your time, I always feel like I’m having a real conversation with you and I always appreciate you giving me your time to listen.  Before you go, if you’re listening on a platform that let’s you leave a review, I’d really appreciate you giving us five stars to let other people know this is a podcast worth listening to.  And if ANYTHING we’ve spoken about today has really helped you, I’d also love it if you shared this episode with other people so we can help them too.
 
And as always, if you’re not yet a member of our tribe, head over to the website at veganbusinesstribe.com where you can find lots more advice, articles and interviews to get you motivated, and I would love to see you at one of our accountability group sessions – our Make it Happen workshops, so that we can help you keep that motivation going.  Thank you for listening, and I will see you on the next one.

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